There's boldly going where no one has gone before, and then there's bolding showing scenes on Star Trek that have never been seen before. We never thought that we'd ever see a relapse in progress from a member of any Trek crew, but then came the latest episode of Star Trek: Picard.
"The Impossible Box" was another episode high on incredible quotes, even without the aforementioned scene. Agnes Jurati got her usual licks in, saying how space is "cold, and empty, and it wants to kill you." We also got the reunion of Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco), which was magnificent to watch. Hugh has not forgotten JL, and he's one of the only people on this show who doesn't have a grudge against him.
Picard doesn't even need to ask Hugh for help — Hugh just up and offers with the following line:
"I don't know what you're doing here, but I'll help you. Any way I can."
The Hugh hits kept coming, too, as Hugh later remarked on the importance of a name, something he learned in his first classic appearance in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "I, Borg."
"A new name can be the first step to a new identity. I learned that on the Enterprise, all those years ago."
The powerful moments run strong between Hugh and JL, but nothing comes close to Raffi (Michelle Hurd) going through a full-on relapse on the bridge of La Sirena.
After being shunned by her son in the previous episode, Raffi has gone back to drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with her pain. They don't help, they never do, but Raffi has to stop feeling. Any way, any method, it doesn't matter. She told her son that she had cleaned up her act, but in this episode her act is nowhere close to clean.
She does her duty anyway. JL shows a massively selfish side of himself, because he asks Raffi to help out with a difficult task right in the midst of her pain. She's in this position in the first place because of him, and for all we can see, he barely notices how much pain she's in. The giant liquor bottle and vaping pen aren't enough of a tell.
Fully drunk and drugged, Raffi makes a call to an old Starfleet contact and gets Jean-Luc credentials for his visit to the Artifact. She blackmails the contact in question, and generally plays her like a violin. Despite her addled state, Raffi gets it done, and she uses the power of dragging the man at the source of her pain (Picard) in order to make it work:
"You know Picard, every part of that guy that’s not ego is rampaging id."
She gets what she needs, and then promptly breaks down. Picard starts to clap for her, happy that she did such a good job, but ... good lord. We know Picard is going through personal issues himself because he's about to go back on board a Borg vessel, but come on, man. The last thing Raffi needs is a petite round of applause.
Michelle Hurd sells every moment of this exchange masterfully — the moments where she's a total wreck, the call itself where she's still drunk but uses it, and then the breakdown when it's over — all of it, perfectly acted, and expertly delivered. Her pain in these moments is difficult to watch.
It doesn't matter what century we're in, and it doesn't matter how "perfect" Gene Roddenberry once imagined humans to be. Some parts of the human condition are eternal, will never be cured, and are just things that will exist forever. Showing a relapse in progress on the bridge of a ship may be one of the most nakedly human things that any Star Trek show has ever done.
It hurts. It seriously hurts. It hurts because it's human. Unabashedly, unquestionably, human.
Rios (Santiago Cabrera) is likely the only one who notices, as he knows Raffi the best. He's the only one to offer comfort when she's back in her bunk, still drinking her troubles down. Not away, just down. As he says:
"No one gets all of it right, Raff."
It's a lovely echo to the exchange between Picard and Seven last week — we're all still working on it. Every damn day. We're not perfect, even in the 24th century. Humans are insanely fragile and quite fallible. Raffi Musiker is no exception, but what might help is that there's another thing that's a constant in the 24th century — she's not alone. There are still people around like Hugh, people with no agenda, people who will simply ask how they can help.
For a deeper (and rather silly) dive into all of the new lore and old references contained within the new episode, give a watch to the latest episode of Warp Factor.